Association of Dealers & Collectors of Ancient & Ethnographic Art

Memorandum of Understanding with Italy up for 5-Year Renewal

Thu, March 19, 2015 3:30 PM | Anonymous
The Government of Italy has requested the US to grant a further 5-year extension of the Memorandum of Understanding blocking the importation of cultural property from Italy into the US. An MOU with Italy halting US imports has been in place for almost fifteen years.

The Cultural Property Advisory Committee meeting for the Italian renewal will be on April 8th-10th. The public session at which interested speakers could appear before the committee will be on April 8th. There will be a public session during that time frame. Papers and a request to attend and or speak must be provided by March 20th.

The 2001 Italy MOU is located here. Last 5-year extension here. The current designated list of items restricted from import is here.

ADCAEA do not support the renewal of the Memorandum of Understanding between the US and the Republic of Italy and will be making an oral presentation and will answer questions at the April 8th meeting. Our presentation is reproduced below:

I write on behalf of the Association of Dealers and Collectors of Ancient and Ethnographic Art (ADCAEA) regarding the Cultural Property Advisory Committee’s (“CPAC’s”) review of a renewal of a Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) with the Republic of Italy (“Italy”). ADCAEA’s principal objective is to advance the responsible and legal trading of ancient and ethnographic art.

ADCAEA fully support practical measures to eliminate the illegal removal of cultural material from a country of origin. We applaud the Republic of Italy on practices introduced to stem the tide of illicit excavation within their country and the reported lack of new criminal investigations by the Republic of Italy regarding unlawful trade suggests these measures continue to be successful.

Throughout history and specifically within the last three hundred years, cultural material has been collected by private individuals and public institutions providing the foundation for the great art collections treasured throughout the world.  Collecting was directly responsible for preserving objects for study and appreciation, with US art collectors and museums being major sponsors for the excavation, scholarship, and preservation of ancient sites across the globe. Whether currently residing in public or private collections, such material carries legitimate collection history, is lawfully on the commercial market and subject to private ownership in the Republic of Italy.

ADCAEA believe the protection and preservation of cultural objects for future generations is essential. ADCAEA believe the efforts of private collectors is vital to the preservation of archaeological objects and promotes further scientific, cultural and educational study of our inherit cultural history. In their paper, “Art Museums, Private Collectors and the Public Benefit” (January, 2007) the Association of Art Museum Directors state “More than 90% of the art collections held in public trust by America’s art museums were donated by private individuals”.

The current MOU significantly restricts the ability of private US collectors to assist in the preservation and study of archaeological and numismatic objects. No other nation has taken similar steps to the US to restrict importation of archaeological and numismatic materials. Nor does the Republic of Italy impose the same level of export controls on the archeological and numismatic materials blocked by the US Memorandum of Understanding in their comprehensive designated list of items. This suggests remedies less drastic than the application of the import restrictions authorized in section 19 U.S.C. 2606 are available (19 U.S.C. 2602, I.(C).(ii)).

Moreover, the application of the MOU import restrictions authorized in section 2606 are not consistent with the general interest of the international community in the interchange of cultural property among nations for scientific, cultural, and educational purposes. By blocking the acquisition of such material, these restrictions disadvantage and discourage US collectors and museums compared to lawful owners in other nations resulting in a decrease in overall participation of scientific, cultural and educational exchange of cultural material (19 U.S.C. 2602, I.(D)) over the past fifteen years.

Pursuant to 19 U.S.C. 2604 and the provisions of the 1970 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Convention, codified into U.S. law as the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act (Pub. L. 97–446, 19 U.S.C. 2601 et seq.), the objective of the bilateral agreement with the Republic of Italy on January 19, 2001 was to protect archaeological objects of “cultural significance” “first discovered within” and “subject to the export control” of the Republic of Italy (19 U.S.C. 2601).

This has since been perverted to embargo the importation of common artifacts traded on the legitimate commercial market both in the US, Europe and in particular within the Republic of Italy. The list of restricted items found at 76 Fed. Reg. 3012 (Jan. 19, 2011) includes, regardless of cultural or monetary value, common archaeological and numismatic objects that possess no special or rare features of form, size, material, decoration, inscription or iconography. Such objects exist in numerous quantities, were exchanged over substantial geographical areas in antiquity that now encompass many nations, and cannot be realistically deemed of specific cultural, historical, or scientific importance to the Republic of Italy.

In conclusion, ADCAEA confirm the implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding with the Republic of Italy in 2001 has impacted the legal importation of archaeological and numismatic objects into the US; objects that are freely traded throughout the rest of world.

For the above reasons, ADCAEA therefore recommend the Memorandum of Understanding with the Republic of Italy not be extended.


Sue McGovern-Huffman, President

Association of Dealers & Collectors of Ancient & Ethnographic Art

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